Statement from President Daniels on the passing of Dr. Michael Rossmann

May 14, 2019

Dear Purdue colleagues,

I write to confirm the sad news that many of you already may have heard. Earlier today, our dear friend and very distinguished colleague, Dr. Michael Rossmann, passed away at his home in West Lafayette.  Few in our history have accomplished the significant scientific breakthroughs that Michael reached during his decades of dedication to the field of structural biology. Few have made such an impact toward the understanding of infectious disease around the world.

Our Hanley Distinguished Professor of Biological Sciences and a member of the National Academy of Sciences as well as the Royal Society of London, Dr. Rossmann, throughout his career, contributed significantly to the understanding of X-ray crystallography, protein structure and evolution, and viral structure and life cycle, including how viruses enter cells, mature and become infectious. His work and that of his lab has led to better treatments for disease afflicting people the world over.  He gained worldwide attention in 1985 by determining the structure of the common cold virus using X-ray crystallography.  In 2002, he teamed with fellow Purdue professor Richard Kuhn to determine the structure of the dengue virus, opening the doors to the possibility of developing new vaccines and antiviral agents to fight a host of insect-borne diseases.  Drs. Rossmann and Kuhn in 2016 combined forces in being the first to determine the structure of the Zika virus, and in 2018 created the most accurate picture of Zika to date, creating the potential for efficiently designing antiviral compounds and vaccines. 

Michael’s brilliance was evident from the moment he stepped onto our campus in 1964 — and no doubt long before that — and it would take pages to list his contributions to science. His accolades were many: named a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 1978 and a member in 1984; the Gregori Aminoff Prize, awarded by the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences in 1994; the Purdue University Medal of Honor in 1994; and member of the National Science Board from 2000-2006.

I know I speak for all Boilermaker faithful, that we are ever grateful for Michael’s unwavering focus and dedication to his research, and his mentorship of the many who will follow in his footsteps and move his work forward in solving some of the world’s great challenges.

Hail Purdue, 
Mitch Daniels

Read more about Dr. Rossmann here.